BROOK PARK, Ohio — Ford is preparing for a day in the near future when a small four-cylinder engine will be the motor of choice in most of its vehicles, perhaps even in pickups.
Demand for the company’s 2-liter turbocharged engine is growing so fast in North America that Ford announced plans Thursday to start building the engine late next year at a factory in Brook Park, Ohio, near Cleveland. Currently it’s importing the motors from a factory in Spain.
The Brook Park plant now employs about 1,300 people who make V-6 engines for the F-Series pickup, the most popular vehicle in America.
Ford plans a $200 million investment in the plant and promises 450 more jobs. But few think that the hiring will stop at 450, as the company and its customers look to smaller “EcoBoost” turbocharged engines to fight high gas prices and comply with more stringent government fuel economy regulations.
Demand for the 2-liter turbocharged motor has exceeded Ford’s expectations, Joe Hinrichs, the company’s new president for the Americas, said after making the announcement. “You never know when that’s going to go further, because the products it’s going to go into are some of our best-selling cars.”
Plus, U.S. auto sales are growing. Industry analysts predict about 15.3 million cars and trucks will be sold this year, up 800,000 from last year.
More customers are choosing turbocharged smaller engines as Ford and other manufacturers offer them in more models. The engines get better gas mileage than six-cylinder motors. And the turbochargers give them more power when needed. In the United States, new vehicles will have to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, twice the roughly 27 mpg they get today.
Ford offered the 2-liter EcoBoost engine in 2011 on its Edge and Explorer SUVs in the United States. Last year, it added the new Escape small SUV, the Taurus large sedan, the Fusion midsize sedan, and a high-performance version of the Focus compact to the list. This year the Lincoln MKZ midsize luxury car also has it.
Two years ago, Ford sold 6,900 vehicles equipped with 2-liter EcoBoost engines in the United States, and that rose to 96,000 last year. In January, Ford sold 15,000 vehicles with the engines, putting it on pace to sell more than 180,000 this year.
Ford expects to sell more than 500,000 cars and trucks with turbocharged four-cylinder and V-6 engines in the United States this year, up from about 334,000 in 2012. The company said turbocharged engines should be available on 90 percent of its North American models this year, and 95 percent by 2015.